You can buy garden-ready soft fruit bushes and strawberry plants that are bulging with ripening fruits from garden centres now. These are a bit more expensive than the bare rooted plants that nurserymen lift to order from their fields in autumn but it’s well worth taking this short cut to be able to PYO from the off.
You don’t have to dedicate an area to grow row upon row of fruit bushes, in a small garden it makes sense to dot them through your flowerbeds and make use of boundary walls to enjoy planty of fruit for summer puddings
Gooseberries are particularly easy to grow and can be pretty much left to their own devices. They can also be grown as bushes, as upright cordons, which take up less space as they can be planted closer together or as a decorative standard, so are perfect for smaller gardens.
The thornless variety Pax gooseberry is ideal for training as a standard. To do this allow, only one stem to develop on a young plant, then stake this trunk upright. Nip out the tip of this stem when it reaches 60-90cm in height, and side branches will form just below your cut.
There is a good choice of gooseberry varieties with fruit that is tiny, sweet and yellow to large, red dessert types. Invicta has yellow-green fruit and superb resistance to mildew. Careless, which produces large, smooth skinned berries that turn green, and milky-white colour when ripe. It ripens in mid July and is the best choice for making crumbles and pies.
Popular favourites are Winhams Industry, which is a red-skinned dessert with excellent flavour. Hino Red is particularly hardy and the one to grow in colder areas
The compact Ben Sarek blackcurrant and strawberries, which are traditionally available to be planted in August, can be used as decorative edging. When buying strawberry, you’ll find that they are categorised as early midsummer, midsummer and late midsummer fruiters.
Perpetual varieties of strawberries fruit both in July and again in late summer/early autumn. If you remove the blossoms in May they will produce a heavy late crop – they have the highest vitamin C within the berry family
In the first year after planting you will get a small crop of strawberries then in the second and third year a large crop after which you will see a decline so it’s best to replace plants. Strawberry Flamenco, Sweetheart, Elsanta and Cambridge Favourite are all good varieties.
Plant the variety Big Ben for an early crop and Ben Tirran for a late crop then cover the time in-between by planting Ben Hope. Where space is limited go for the compact variety Ben Serek, which has large black fruits that can be eaten fresh although cooking brings out the best flavor.
A blackcurrant bush will serve up about 5kg of fruit if it’s not starved of water when the fruits start to swell
The trick when growing blackcurrants is to pay attention to pruning. Mature plants should have up to one-third of the branches cut back to ground level each winter to make room for new season growth.
Redcurrants and white currants are also extremely versatile and can be grown as standards with clear stems of around 90cm and planted as the centerpiece of a border or grown in a pot on the patio. They can also be grown as slim-fit cordons with one or more stems trained upright on cane supports but if you want the best yield, it’s best to grow them as a goblet-shaped bush in a well-nourished border. The tastiest redcurrants are Johnkeer van Tets and Rovada.
White currants are not usually available in shops so are worth growing, as they are sweeter than redcurrants. Tasty Versailles Blanche as it is one of the first to ripen
There is also a yellow-fruiting sport of Autumn Bliss, which fruits on the new canes and is vigorous and heavy cropping. Raspberries freeze well but are equally delicious fresh and can be used in summer puddings, fruit salads, jam or purée with yoghurt or ice-cream
Raspberries are one of the most rewarding fruits to grow, provided you can provide them with a deep, fertile, well-drained soil and full sun. Many different varieties are available some cropping in early June while others will produce fruit well into autumn.
Of the summer fruiting varieties, there’s the jam-makers’ favourite Julia plus the highly productive Glen Fyne, which some say, has he best flavour. Extend the season with Autumn Bliss and then leave it un-pruned over winter and you will also be blessed with an extra early crop next summer.
A cross between a raspberry and blackberry, Tayberry produces a large crop of up to 9 kilo of sweet aromatic berries in summer to autumn
After cropping tayberries must be pruned, remove any weak canes and take old ones down to ground level. Trained up a wall or trellis in full sun or partial shade, Tayberry makes a decorative feature with flowers in May and decorative long red berries throughout the summer.
Blueberries have become a popular plant in recent years. Look out for the variety Top Hat, which is a compact shrub up to 50cm tall, which is ideal for growing in pots or anywhere in the garden
As blueberries are lime-haters acid soil is essential, so grow them in containers and water with rainwater. Growing three plants together will ensure a good crop. The fruits are sweet and tasty when round and blue. Simply cup your hand beneath a clump and loosen them so they fall – discard any that are cracked.
Blackberry Fantasia and Loch Ness are the best varieties and do best in full sunshine, even though they can tolerate some shade. They do best in full sunshine, but can tolerate some shade.Blackberry plants will produce berries for 15 to 20 years if you take care of them!
If you’ve no room to have this scrambling, thorny bush, forage the hedgerows for a free autumn feast
Delicious strawberry and raspberry puree
50g icing sugar
Use a sharp knife to hull (remove the leafy top) the strawberries and gently clean them with a piece of damp kitchen towel then blitz them in a blender. Press the raspberries to a pulp and mix with the icing sugar, then add to the strawberry puree ready for pouring over a bowl of fresh strawberries and finish with a dollop of thick cream.
White chocolate and raspberry cheesecake
150g digestive biscuits
60g butter, plus extra for greasing
1 tbsp demerara sugar
FOR THE TOPPING
200g white chocolate
1 x 250g tub of full-fat mascarpone cheese
300ml pouring double cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
500g fresh raspberries
1 tbsp icing sugar
Butter the base of a deep-sided 20cm round spring-form tin and line with a disc of baking paper.
To make the base, put the biscuits into a polythene bag and use a rolling pin to crush into fine crumbs.
Heat the butter until just melted. Add the crushed biscuits and sugar and stir until combined. Spoon into the base of the prepared tin and press with the back of a spoon until level. Chill in the fridge while you make the topping.
Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir until melted but not hot, then leave to cool down for 5–10 minutes.
Meanwhile, tip the mascarpone into a bowl, and stir in the cream and vanilla extract, stirring with a spatula until smooth.
To make a coulis for the top of the cheesecake, place half the raspberries into a food processor. Add the icing sugar and whizz until runny, then pour through a sieve to remove the seeds.
Pour the melted chocolate into the bowl with the mascarpone mixture and stir to combine, taking care not to over-mix.
Spoon the white chocolate mixture on to the biscuit base in the tin. Put in the fridge until ready to serve then pour the coulis over the top of the cake.
ADULTS ONLY – Fruit jelly
1 kilo of mixed soft fruit – blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and blueberries
4 leaves gelatine
140 ml elderflower cordial
2 heaped tablespoons caster sugar
425 ml Prosecco, chilled
Put your gelatine leaves into a bowl with a little cold water to soak for a minute, then drain and add the gelatine back to the bowl with the cordial. Rest above a pan of water over a medium heat and stir constantly until the gelatine and cordial become syrup. Add the sugar, stir till dissolved, then remove the bowl from the heat and let it sit at room temperature for a minute or so.
Arrange the fruit into small jelly moulds. Pour the chilled Prosecco into the cordial mix, and then pour this over the fruit in you. If the fruit rises to the top push it down into the jelly mix then put the moulds into the fridge for an hour to set.
To serve, dip the moulds into a bowl of hot water to loosen the jelly, then turn them out onto individual plates and add a dollop of crème fresh.
NOTE you can replace the Prosecco with Vodka and set the jelly in a terrine mould or loaf tin and serve it in slices.
Tasty treats – from June issue of Tesco magazine
Balsamic ricotta tartines
Spread sourdough toast with ricotta, then layer with sliced strawberries, blueberries and mint. Drizzle with honey and balsamic glaze.
Blirz 3 parts olive oil and one part lemon juice with chopped garlic, black pepper and a few raspberries and strawberries. Drizzle over a salad.
Mix equal parts whipped cream and natural yoghurt. Simmer blackberries with sugar and a dash of elder flower cordial until they begin to break down. Cool then fold into the creamy yoghurt.
Blueberries are the perfect partner for any tangy cheese in a savoury toastie.